BECKLEY, W.Va. — It always seems to happen the best times to fish seem to be when we have the most to do. However, to paraphrase a wise man, “The best time to fish is when you have time to go fishing.” I’ve adopted it as my mission statement.
That said, you always want to pick a spot which will maximize the potential for success. The dead heat of summer, the most likely spot to find active fish is in moving water. Current will generate them faster than anything when the mercury goes north of 80. The best place to find that in West Virginia is floating or wading one of the state’s flowing rivers.
“The Greenbrier River is probably the number one for wading,” said DNR District Fisheries Biologist Mark Scott. “It’s fairly safe with no really deep holes or dangerous rapids. It’s an ideal place to walk around and fish.”
The Greenbrier is also teaming with smallmouth bass. One note however, if you’re looking to float fish the Greenbrier you may want to check the river levels before you go.
“I usually don’t float the Greenbrier in the summer because it gets so low you end up doing more dragging than floating,” laughed Scott.
However, the New River is no laughing matter. The New River probably offers the best fishing in the state for smallmouth and walleye, but unless you are a skilled boatman, you’re best bet is to select a professional outfitter and let them do the navigating. It works out because you get more time to fish and it may just save your life.
“I get people who call and want to bring their Jon boat down for a ten mile float,” said Scott. “I tell them, ‘Guys, people get killed doing that.'”
The massive boulders, deep pools, and active rapids which make the New a haven for fish are also what create dangerous undertows which show no mercy or discrimination for the unskilled. While wading between the Bluestone Dam and Sandstone is considered acceptable, even wading below Meadow Creek isn’t advisable.
Other float fishing opportunities around the state include the South Branch of the Potomac. The gently flowing waters in the most upper reaches of the river which eventually flows into the nation’s capitol can be a blast for a canoe trip. Veterans often tell stories of the legendary Trough. Although the stretch of water isn’t nearly what it was prior to the 1985 flood, anglers still make a pilgrimage to the area to try their luck every weekend of the spring, summer, and fall.
The Coal River in Boone County has a history of pollution and a poor reputation for fishing. But thanks to the efforts of the Coal River Group, this isn’t’ your father’s Coal River. From the upper reaches of the Big Coal and Little Coal arms all the way to the confluence with the Kanawha at St. Albans, many are discovering an enjoyable waterway on the rebound, for canoeing and fishing.
Other possibilities for a float trip are the Elk, Tygart, and West Fork. Musky hunters will be impressed with the waters of Mud River and Fishing Creek.
Finding current often means finding fish in hot, humid weather. Fishing early or late in the day will also increase your odds.